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All posts by Andy Walker

  • Killstreak confirmed: Microsoft shuttering Xbox Entertainment Studios

    The 18 000 job cuts announced by Satya Nadella earlier this week weren't going to go unnoticed, but Microsoft, for all intents and purposes, is on one massive rampage. After the newly-bought Nokia Devices and Services division suffered the first blow, the company is now slaying its under-performing Xbox Entertainment Studios. Just like the Nokia-Android X debacle, this move doesn't seem much of a surprise either. The division has been at pains to draw interest or projects in its relatively brief lifespan. The Santa Monica subsidiary, charged with providing interactive Xbox-exclusive television content for Live subscribers, employed around 200 people according...

  • 7 improvements that would make Windows 9 the best Microsoft OS ever

    There's a myth around the tech world that Microsoft follows up its blockbuster OS with universally hated sequels. This theory seems to bear true when looking at its dismal track record. Starting at Windows 95, the crash-happy 98 soon followed. Windows XP, in turn, was ceded by the unstable and heavily bloated Windows Vista. And now, Microsoft's most successful OS of all, Windows 7, is overthrown by Windows 8, a version destined to become its most hated OS ever. It's not like Windows 8 is awful either. It shares its older brother's granite-like stability and boots faster than a scolded...

  • Samsung introduces Beats-beating premium audio range to the US

    Samsung has recently taken IBM's baton in the "who hates Apple more" marathon. The Korean electronics giant, although cooperating with Apple for many years, has seen its Samsung Galaxy S5 beaten by Cupertino's year-old iPhone 5s. But Samsung refuses to lie down in the battle of the premium audio products. Samsung Mobile has announced that it will finally introduce its Level premium audio series to the US, which will likely strike a few chords in the Beats' dominated sector. Priced at US$349, the flagship Level Over (pictured above) undercuts the Beats Pro, while falling just above the Studio's tag. The white...

  • Google’s new pupil: diabetes-detecting contact lenses

    Is this smart wearables gone mad? Google's latest venture, teaming up with a Swiss biomedical firm, may send alarm bells ringing in the minds of the meek. Novartis's Alcon ocular division will license Google's smart contact lens technology to create a diabetes-monitoring, cornea mounted device. This super lens holds a tiny smart sensor that monitors the glucose levels of tears, wirelessly relaying it (once per second) to a mobile device. Should the reading fall within the red zones, an alert will be issued to the wearer, possibly via "tiny LED lights that could light up," note project co-founders Brian Otis...

  • Phase-changing material edges shapeshifting Terminators closer to reality

    Robots will soon be everywhere, and we all (just like Will Smith) will have to deal with it. But for now, the rigid, metallic materials used in robotic construction don't allow them the ubiquitous freedom they crave. But this may soon change. Researchers from MIT have now developed a new phase-changing material that could allow future robots to shift between soft and hard states. Developed by Anette Hosoi, along with Nadia Cheng, robotics company Boston Dynamics and DARPA, the new material is a low-cost breakthrough for the robotics industry. Just like an octopus or a mouse, or if you love movie references...

  • Russia’s R1 super-tram will ‘integrate into any landscape’ and it has USB 3.0

    Only in Russia, say the memes, but in this particular case, it certainly rings true. Recently debuting at Innoprom 2014 was the Soviet nation's most elaborate, and certainly tech-drenched tram the world has ever seen. Dubbed the Russia One (or R1), the high-tech transport looks a bit like a snail, and one wouldn't be misled to think of a tram as an overweight piece of wood with a few rails beneath. But Yekaterinburgian creators (yes, that's a real place) of the Russia One, UralVagonZavod (UVZ) have certainly removed the stigma with one fell swoop. The bi-directional R1 has a forward-slanted windshield, that provides...

  • It’s probably a trap: Star Wars fans can now fund new Death Star on Kickstarter

    Is this the death of crowsourcing? Nope. Only the death of the human race, it seems. A Manchunian Palpatine fan has taken to Kickstarter to fund the intricate construction of a £9 "Death Star." Perhaps in tribute to the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, the builder's technical skill set or a test of Kickstarter's mettle, ambitious projects like this that harbour the least sense often are the most successful. Other bogus crowdfunding projects have made headlines across the world this week, most notably Zack Brown's Potato Salad project. Asking for US$10, Brown received over US$45 000, and is still racking...

  • 5-TILES keyboard review: the Qwerty pretender

    Call me a Neanderthal, but I miss typing on a phone with a physical Qwerty keyboard. Nothing quite beats the tangible feedback a springing key with defined edges provides. BlackBerry's now largely extinct Bold range had the best example but now, although touchscreen smartphones are more powerful than we could ever have anticipated then, typing anything of length on one is an unwanted chore. Enter the third party keyboard app that hopes to kill Qwerty for good -- ETAOI Systems's 5-TILES keyboard, available for Android and likely iOS too in the coming months. Novel and attractive design The self-proclaimed "keyboard designed for...

  • Chromecast screen mirroring now enabled for high-end Android gizmos

    Finally, after much ado, Google has given a select group of Android devices the ability to mirror screens across to Chromecast, an ability that had been touted at this year's Google I/O. This new feature, announced on the Chrome blog, allows specific Android-based phones and tablets to share its screen to Google's Chromecast dongle, granting users the power to watch videos, share pictures or view additional device content on a larger screen. Content will also appear larger but "exactly as you see it on your mobile device", so that potentially includes anything from a 42-inch game of Angry Birds to...

  • Samsung’s ‘Gear VR’ headset set for September launch [rumour]

    If reports coming from SamMobile are factual, then Samsung will be showcasing its much anticipated Google Cardboard-challenger, dubbed the Gear VR, in September at the IFA 2014 trade show. Speculation abounds following Engadget's leak a few weeks ago, but SamMobile can now "confirm" that the Korean manufacturer is indeed working on a VR headset of its own, and it will be arriving very shortly. In a quickly-blossoming market featuring the likes of Sony's Project Morpheus, Google's DIY-orientated Cardboard and Facebook's Oculus Rift, Samsung also wants a foot in the door before it is slammed shut. Unlike Sony or Oculus's implementation, however,...